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Quebec abolishes religious education.

Montreal-From our correspondent Regina Farrell. The situation for Catholics in Quebec desiring a religious education for their children continues to deteriorate. Readers will recall that when Quebec restructured its school boards in 1998 along linguistic, rather than confessional, lines, it was with the understanding that both Catholic and Protestant schools would retain the opportunity to teach religion according to their traditional views under the new system. There was even a glimmer of optimism when parents learned that religious education would be more widely available.

Soon after the new school boards came into being, however, the government commissioned Jean-Pierre Proulx to report on the role of religion in the public schools. The Proulx report was issued last year, and it recommended the complete secularization of the public school system. This was expected, as Proulx was a long-time advocate of a non-religious school system. Ironically, perhaps, given that Quebecers have moved away from the Church in recent decades, most parents still want their children to learn religion at school, and were cool to the recommendations contained in the report.

The government of Quebec, clearly in agreement with Proulx, decided to move ahead with most of his recommendations, but to do so incrementally, in order to stave off strong opposition. The government had the full cooperation of the media, which supported Proulx's recommendations editorially and virtually ignored the government's hurried passage of Bill 118, which eliminated confessional schools as of last July 1st. As of the opening of the new school year, there are no longer any Catholic or Protestant schools of course. So, while Holy Cross School retains its Catholic name, for the time being, crucifixes are no longer to be found in any of the classrooms.

The curriculum is also affected. As of September, 2001, religious education will be cut in half to about one hour per week, and at the high school level will no longer be Christian in nature, but will concern itself with ethics and "religious culture." In elementary school, pastoral animators, who up until now have been supplied by the Church, will become school board employees. They will begin a new program of "spiritual support and community involvement."

After going along for years, the Quebec bishops now are 'concerned,' questioning the criteria and methods which will be implemented under the new curriculum. They conclude by saying they "intend to keep abreast of all the implementation stages of all components of Bill 188, with special vigilance regarding the respect for the wishes of students, parents and various social milieus."

Many wonder how the bishops, who were very quick to assure parents that the interests of the Catholic faithful would be protected even after surrendering the constitutional right to Catholic schools in Quebec, could possibly have been so naive. As reality sets in, dioceses and individual parishes are realizing that a new catechesis is required, not only for the children, but for their parents as well one that will not be carried in the schools but against the schools.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Words:500
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